Category Archives: Apple

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 First Glance – a heart breaker and a deal breaker

As those that know me will know, I’m a big fan of Apple products. Some call me a fanboy – but my view is that I like them because they work. I’ve owned my Mid-2012 MacBook Pro 15″ since… Mid-2012, and have barely lost a day of productivity. The last time the MBP was out of action was when I dropped it on the corner onto granite, and dented it. Apple took it in and replaced nearly everything, a process which took a few days.

That said, 3 years is a long time in technology, and the MBP has seen better days. It’s out of warranty and some of the connectors have stopped working, and it’s getting a bit slow. It’s time for a replacement and the rumors are that Apple will have a new machine in Q1 of 2016.

And here it is that I find myself browsing the world of computers.

Why not the iPad Pro or MacBook?

I love the new MacBook, it looks great. But, for me it is underpowered and the keyboard is a little cramped, and I’m certain that it’s not well built enough to survive the pounding that anything I own will go through. I went through 3 MacBook Airs before I was smart enough to move to the Pro, and those light machines can’t handle it.

As for the iPad Pro… it’s just a big iPad. That will suit some people, and the screen and battery life are glorious, but I can’t download 20GB of email from Office 365 locally, or curate complex documents. A few of the reviews have said the same – the iPad Pro is an awesome consumer device, but it’s no laptop replacement.

A Mid-2015 MacBook Pro isn’t an option – it’s way too incremental an improvement over what I’ve already got. So Apple… you’re out!

Then it must be the Microsoft Surface Book?

The next logical device is the Microsoft Surface Book. On paper, it looks like it’s the ultimate laptop convertible. There seems to be no downside to this thing! It’s a laptop… it’s a tablet… with 12h battery life and no downside.

My take on the Surface Book is that it’s very much a first generation device. Is it the future of computing? Hard to tell. Certainly, it appears to offer the best of both worlds, but the battery as a tablet is very limited, for example, and it can’t charge from base station to tablet – you have to be plugged in. I also heard various problems with docking and undocking the base.

I walked into Best Buy and they admitted that whilst they did have Surface Books in stock, I couldn’t see one because their demo device didn’t power on any more and they were awaiting a replacement from Microsoft. That sealed the deal.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

And so it is that I find myself writing this on a Microsoft Surface Pro 4. I’m sat on the sofa, tapping away on the keyboard on my lap, with the kick stand propping up the screen. The keyboard case is remarkably stiff and I find myself typing remarkably quickly, though I’m still not quite used to the offset keyboard, so accuracy is off.

For the last week I’ve been traveling with both my SP4 and my trusty MacBook Pro, so I can be sure not to lose productivity. I’m not ready to make a final conclusion yet but I think you’ll find the initial findings interesting.

It is conceptually amazing

The concept of the SP4 is amazing. It’s light, it’s a tablet, and it has a detachable keyboard. It claims a 9 hour battery life and Windows 10 is convertible-friendly, so you can switch in between use cases on a dime.

The screen is fantastic – detailed and crisp with great colors, and the kick stand means you can get comfortable on any surface. Microsoft Edge is a good browser and is quite effective in tablet mode, which is very nice browsing on the sofa, where you can detach the keyboard and save all that weight.

I’ve got the i5 version so it’s not got the raw power of a MacBook Pro, but I find it responsive and speedy enough for my needs. I figured the i5 version would have better battery life, and it’s far less expensive. Office 2016 is also awesome, and can be downloaded via your Office 365 subscription.

It excels at some things

The SP4 absolutely excels at some things. For example I just ran an off-site, and I used OneNote with the pen to take notes, taking pictures of white boards with the camera, and it was awesome.

Same with being used for email in a café or train station – you can pull it out, and the keyboard is remarkably good to get out content quickly. I used the iPad Pro keyboard and was much less impressed. It can’t match a full size keyboard like the MacBook Pro, but it’s not far off.

It misses the mark in the real world

I’ve been trying to work with the SP4, but so far it’s not met my expectations. See, there are deal breakers.

First, the Wi-Fi is flakey. This is well documented on the web, and running all the updates in (which takes 4 reboots and over an hour) helps. But I still can’t access my iPhone hotspot, which means I get no internet on the go.

Second, the claimed 9 hour battery life is simply not true. In very modest use, it’s 3-4 hours of browsing and email. I don’t understand how a consumer product company is allowed to make statements like this. I guess you might be able to get 9 hours of video playback with the screen turned off.

Third, the usability is off. I put the SP4 down and then pick it up some while later and open the keyboard flap. It doesn’t turn on, you have to press the button for this. And depending on how deep it has gone to sleep, you have to wait several minutes for it to come to life. Or sometimes it doesn’t come to life at all and you have to hard reset.

I’ve taken a hard line – I must try to use the SP4 first, and use the MBP as a backup device, but too many times I’ve got frustrated with the SP4 because I had actual work to do, and pulled out the MacBook Pro.

Fourth, the tablet mode isn’t quite right. I had a Lenovo Yoga, and that converted automatically between tablet and PC mode when you flipped the keyboard. Not so with the SP4, you have to manually switch, which is frustrating. What’s more, many apps (Slack, for instance) aren’t tablet-enabled, so they aren’t responsive and the on-screen keyboard gets in the way. Slack is my primary messaging tool, so that’s another deal breaker.

And last, the so-called lapability factor of the SP4 is off. The kick stand means that the keyboard is 3″ closer to you than in the MacBook Pro, which means that the SP4 is horribly uncomfortable on an airplane or train, and because it doesn’t have a hinge, the keyboard and screen don’t support each other. On a flat surface, it’s awesome, but elsewhere, it’s really unpleasant.

Final Words

I’ll be traveling with the MBP and SP4 over the next few weeks and I’m hoping I come to like the SP4 more. Perhaps it will come into its own in situations I haven’t encountered yet.

But for a fourth generation device, the SP4 has too many deal breakers.

The Apple Watch in the Enterprise

My Apple Watch arrived on Friday in Lime Green. The reason for purchase – to discover whether wearables will be relevant to Enterprise Software. Can this tiny screen and basic user interface do something actually useful?

First Impressions

The amazing thing about the Apple Watch is it’s an instant friend. It’s not like I had time to waste on Friday (the SAP SAPPHIRE annual conference is just 9 days out) so I threw it on my wrist, spent 2 minutes configuring it via the Apple Watch iPhone app that had automatically installed itself at some stage in the last month, and left it on my wrist to sync. Top marks to the folks at Apple for integration. You need an iPhone 5, or above, which is fine by me.

It then seemed to pick up what apps are on my iPhone, and transfer them to my watch. Some are obviously very useful (Hotels Tonight, Uber, TripIt), some are theoretically useful (the Twitter and Skype apps don’t really do much) and some are downright annoying (Whole Foods, I do NOT want you tapping on my wrist to tell me I’ve got a new reward!).

Haptic Hell

The next thing that happened is what I affectionately call Haptic Hell. All of a sudden, I’ve got my iPhone on my wrist. It seemed like every few seconds I got an email, text, Slack Message, Twitter Direct Message, Skype, or some similar message.

Now I’ve spent some years making my email quite clean. All lists, spam, ham, and other non-essential emails all find their ways automatically into folders. Despite this, I get a good few hundred emails in my inbox every day, and that means my wrist gets a tap (I soon turned off the sound) several times a minute.

Two things are for sure. First, busy people in the Enterprise will turn off a lot of notifications – I already turned a bunch off. You can’t be tortured with a miniature cattle-prod 700 times a day. Second, Apple need to get the software to be much more self-tuning with alerts. It looks like I can configure it only to show emails where I mark the sender as VIP, but then I might miss some great stuff.

Google has gone a long way with GMail to focus you on the emails you need to read now, and the Apple Watch must do this, or I will eventually get bored and turn it off.

Version 1.0

When the Apple iPhone came out in June 2007, I happened to be in the US, so I picked up a first generation device with iOS 1.0 installed. The same happened in April 2010 with the Apple iPad. Actually the same happened with the PowerBook G4 in 2001, but that’s another story.

With each of those devices we saw a similar story – the first generation device was somewhat clunky, and later generations really brought out the best in it – both in terms of hardware, operating system but also in terms of ecosystem.

As I mentioned before, most of the apps aren’t there yet. Many are missing (Viber for one), and many others are very basic (Twitter does only Timeline and Top Trends, neither of which I care about). This will come in time, as people learn how to use the screen and crown.


Usability right now is around a 5/10. Performance is much better than the early reviewers suggested – I counted 8 seconds for it to lock my location in Uber and show the “request” button.

My main pain is it doesn’t know when to turn itself on and off. Especially when I’m working on a laptop, the screen will turn itself on constantly because it thinks I’m looking at it. Other times, especially when sat on a sofa or in bed, you have to make a conscious move to turn the screen on. That’s quite painful, but no doubt it will get fixed in future revisions.

Battery life is fine, provided you know you have to charge it every day. My main gripe there is that the magnetic charger doesn’t come as a disk with a lightening port. That way I could share the cable with an iPhone. I hate cables, but no doubt someone will think of this and make one.


The security is only OK. It has a lock, and locks when you take it off, which is very nice, but it’s only locked with a code. This defaults to 4 digits but can be set to a complex passcode, and can be configured to unlock when you use the fingerprint scanner on the iPhone.

Personally I’d like to turn the passcode on the Watch off, and only unlock it using the iPhone. This would be much more secure. In the meantime, I set a complex 8-digit numeric password (00000000). Just kidding.

Enterprise Email Integration

This isn’t bad, and not great either (see a trend here?). A lot of the time it says that the message can’t be displayed on the phone (try your best!!!), and it doesn’t do essential activities like being able to automatically join conference calls on your iPhone at the right time.

Calendar appointments come through as emails which is annoying, so there’s definitely some work to do here.

What I like most is the ability to glance and see who emailed you. This way you can decide if it needs actioning right now, which can ironically avoid disturbances.

Apple Watch in the Enterprise

What I learnt is that I believe that successful Apple Watch apps will have the following characteristics:

  • Have simple micro-functions. Uber just has a “request” button, and Hotels Tonight has a list of hotels and a “Book Now” button.
  • Have full micro-functionality. Wall Street Journal gives you a teaser of news articles with no way to read the full article, which is pretty useless. They need to figure a different way.
  • Be actionable in 5-15 seconds. The sweet spot for Apple Watch activity is 5-15 seconds, or you would be better off getting your iPhone out your pocket.
  • Be necessary. Notifications must be necessary! Whole Foods Rewards is a great example of a Bad Watch App, because it bugs you about rewards that you don’t want an email about, let alone someone tapping you on the wrist.

With that in mind, I’ve started to play with ideas with Bluefin developer Brenton o’Callaghan, for pulling Enterprise data onto the wrist. Here’s a few we are toying with:

  • Workflow approvals. Not for all approvals, but managers on the move who need to urgently approve items might benefit.
  • Sales leads. Field sales folks might appreciate knowing about leads more soon.
  • Timesheets. Consultants could get a notification once a day at 6pm, offering them a list of recently used WBS elements to book that day to.
  • Real-Time Analytics. Small graphs, or percentage numbers – showing sales/revenue targets, customer support numbers, staff utilization.

With each of those ideas, we’ve tried to take into account the rules above.

Final Words

The Apple Watch has convinced me that wearables are here to stay. It is a very flawed first generation device, but it has shown me the future. I don’t advise you to buy one if you’re not an early adopter – the Apple Watch 2 will no doubt be an enormous step forward.

What’s important to note is the Apple Watch is a very personal device – it feels like a friend. A slightly awkward friend right now, but a friend. It’s a friend that tells me what’s going on, in real-time. It taps me on the wrist and tells me what’s going on in the world.

I highly recommend that Enterprise Software folks have a serious think about what this means to the future of software. It’s just as significant a move as the iPhone was in 2007. Let’s check back in 2023 and see if I was right?

The Apple Watch – time to short Apple stock?

It took Apple exactly 3 years to break the 50m iPhone barrier (it sold 74m last quarter alone), and the iPhone was a significant device: it provided a user experience that changed how phones were made, and destroyed the sales of the corporate-friendly Blackberry.

Three years later, the iPad did this in just 7 quarters, despite being a device that no one needed. That’s marked by the fact that iPad sales are down year on year in 2015, and are unlikely to recover: Apple has released the iPhone 6+, which is big enough for many people, and the new MacBook, which will wipe out both the MacBook Air, some of the MacBook Pro, and some of the iPad audience.

We will see the iPad go the way of the iPod Classic – loved by many for years to come, and then finally, with dwindling sales, being discontinued.

But all these launches were overshadowed by the hype of the Apple Watch. CEO Tim Cook has big boots to fill: the launch of the iPad was still looked over by the late Steve Jobs, and Tim has been doing an incredible job of fine-tuning the Apple products ever since. He’s a supply chain guy, and what he has done to the quality and production of Apple’s products is nothing short of incredible.

Back to the Apple Watch. Cook clearly understood a few things about the Swiss Watch market when they built the Apple Watch.

First, he understood that luxury watches are Veblen Goods – that is to say, the demand is proportional to the price. The Porsche 918 Spyder, starts at an incredible $845,000, but you can pay $49,900 for a Porsche Macan and get the same steering wheel. With the Apple Watch, the $17,000 Apple Watch Edition brings greater value to the $349 Apple Watch Sport – whilst there are enough rich A-list celebrities who will buy (or be given) the $17,000 insanity.

Second, he bet that there are enough Apple Fanboys (and girls) who will buy anything Apple peddle them. What’s more, there are enough poorly-created smart watches on the market that there is a place for Apple to come along and bring their brand: user experience and simplicity.

For me, in the Enterprise Software market, the Apple Watch has the capability to transform the way corporations work. There are many business decisions which need making on a daily basis which could be subtly displayed on a watch, and could be made more quickly. These aren’t complex things, but rather high-priority small decisions like approving an urgent purchase order on the move.

To my eye, the Apple Watch, however, looks rather like the 1st Generation iPad. It’s somehow ungainly and even – shock horror – a little ugly. But do you remember the 1st Generation iPod (those babies sell for $10k+ sealed!), and iPhone?

What’s more, the Apple Watch is missing a bunch of the features that made it interesting – pulse and blood pressure monitoring, for example. It doesn’t have wireless charging, or a self-charging mode like many Swiss Watches. It will need charging every day and that’s a real hassle.

Even worse, there’s no guarantee that your $17,000 shiny new toy will be upgradable beyond software updates, and Apple will be bringing new watches out every year. My current watch has been on my wrist for over 15 years, and it’s one thing buying a new iPhone every 2 years, but another story spending $17,000 on a watch every 2 years. That is truly for the super rich.

My prediction is that it will sell, but not anything like as well as the second generation, which will be lighter, have a good battery life and add the features that people really wanted. Let’s see whether it can get to 50m devices sold in less than 7 quarters (I predict it will before the end of 2015).

I also predict that the sales won’t meet the investors’ lofty expectations and the stock price will fall. Time to short Apple stock, then.

Does Verizon Fios Quantum 300MB really exist?

I’ve had the need to download a large volume of data over this last week. I had the Verizon FIOS 50/25 service, which is now quite outdated and has been replaced by a 75/75 service for the same price. So, I thought I’d get upgraded.

As it turns out, the Motorola wall box that Verizon provided 5 years ago doesn’t support this, so Verizon kindly offered to upgrade me to a new wall box free of charge, the next working day (it normally costs $100 but they waived it, presumably due to being a long term customer). They also said they had to upgrade me to 300/300 and then downgrade me back to 75/75.

300/300 costs over $200/month, but I thought it would be fun to test: do you REALLY get 300/300 or is it just “theoretical”. What does $200/month get you?

Step 1 – 90Mbit

Two friendly Verizon engineers came by this morning to do the upgrade (precisely on schedule), and 60 minutes of downtime later, I went and retested the internet. I got 90Mbit both on wired and wireless connection. That’s a bit too convenient, and I suspected there might be a problem in the long wire that went from my Apple Time Capsule (3rd Generation) to the Verizon wall box.

So I moved the Time Capsule to a short 3m cable next to the Verizon box, in the hope it might get a Gigabit Ethernet connection.

Step 2 – 180Mbit

This made a dramatic difference, and even with the old Time Capsule I got 180Mbit wireless networking, which is quite amazing. At this point, my ThunderBolt Gigabit Ethernet adapter blew up, so I wasn’t able to test wired networking.

I also knew the Time Capsule was on its way out – it’s 3 years old and has a hard drive inside and gets extremely hot. Some redundancy is good at home so I thought I’d go and buy a new AirPort Extreme. Don’t bother with the Time Capsule… just attach a hard disk to the Airport and save $100.

Step 3 – 320-350Mbit

After I replaced the Time Capsule (802.11n) with the Airport Extreme (802.11ac) I now get the full 300-350Mbit, and it is more reliable with the ThunderBolt Gigabit Ethernet adapter (thanks to Apple for replacing this free of charge).

What’s real world performance like?

It’s pretty amazing. I’m getting a comfortable 60GB/hour of downloads going on, which I happen to need for a work project I’m working on under deadline. Ping time to is just 4ms and we can all browse the internet and watch movies even whilst downloading several threads at 60GB/hour.

Would I pay $200/month for the pleasure? No, I’m sorry but this is an excessive luxury that I can’t afford and don’t need. But, I am thinking of downgrading to the $129/month 150/150 rather than the $89/month 75/75.

Final Words

Just because you buy 300/300 internet, it doesn’t mean you will get it. You need devices, wireless adapters and wireless routers that can shift that sort of bandwidth and may have to invest some additional dollars to get what you paid for. And if you really want super-reliable internet, you do need to move to a wired connection – it reduces latency and improves browsing performance.

Either way, kudos to Verizon and Apple for awesome customer service and good quality products.

Now, I just need to find a database big enough to load the 18TB of data I just downloaded. More on that later!

Sony Walkman W – Klout Perks Review

So I got my Sony Walkman W in the mail on Thursday – read my previous blog about how Klout Perks sent one to me for free.

Their competition for the best social media content ended the day after, on Friday, so I guess I missed out on that! I haven’t had much time to try them out, but here’s my analysis so far:

Sony Walkman W


To set the scene – I’m a runner, and I do hate running with headphones – the wires get in the way, they fall out the whole time and it’s just not very liberating. So I have an open mind here. This is the Sony Walkman W Meb Keflezighi model, who obviously likes Orange.

Good – It’s much more compatible than I had expected

So it doesn’t sync with iTunes, but I can get music on relatively easily. I create Genius Playlists on my iPhone, download them on my Mac (I use iTunes cloud so quite often the music isn’t on my Mac) and then I drag the downloaded content from iTunes onto the Sony Walkman, which appears as a USB disk on my Mac.

So in 5 minutes or so I have 100 songs on it, which is enough for a workout. Admittedly I do like the flexibility of iTunes Match on my iPhone, where I can dial in a Genius playlist for the exact mood I’m in, but I usually listen to the same stuff anyhow.

Good – Fit

The fit is much better than the device looks it ought to be, and not having cables everywhere is a big win. I focus more on running and less on not getting tangled, which is more fun.

Good – Sound Quality

It’s not at the top of my list for workout headphones, but the sound quality is surprisingly good. Better, I’d say, than Apple’s iPhone 5 headphones. Not as good as a high-end Sennheiser or Shure headphone, but I can’t say I really care when I’m pounding the pavement. Bass is pretty awesome, which is a really nice in a workout headphone, and mid-ranges and trebles have plenty of detail.

Good/Bad – Noise Canceling

These headphones give you a really surprising amount of noise canceling effect. It does mean that if you’re on the open road, you need to make sure you pay extra attention because you may not hear cars and cyclists around you.

Good/Bad – Controls

The controls are on the bottom of the ear-pads and take some getting used to because you have to navigate them by touch and they are close together. The Sony Lady barks commands at you like “Shuffle Play” in a sci-fi style, which is pretty funny. As you use the device, they become just fine but they’re fiddly on first attempt.

Not so Good – Music Choice

You can’t really choose what you listen to. Sony say you can drag and drop your iTunes playlists but I can’t get it to work.

Not so Good – You look like Cheburashka

Need I say more? I tried it in the office and felt like a nerd. This headwear is acceptable only for work-outs!


2) It’s not… integrated

I love the idea of sports headphones, but syncing music is sooooo last decade. I mean check out the Polar H7 Heart Rate Monitor. That thing syncs with your iPhone via Bluetooth and takes a full ECG to your favorite Fitness App.

The Jabra Sport looks like it might be a very nice companion to a workout, as an alternative.


If Sony made a version of this that was a bit smaller on the ears, fitted slightly more comfortably, and worked with Bluetooth rather than using old-school USB technology, I think it would be way cooler.

Sony have done a great job of the Walkman W, and if you want a set of USB headphones without the wires, then these guys are just what you need.

It looks like they are positioning them against the iPod Shuffle and since I have one of those too, I’d say the Walkman W definitely wins.

Sony Walkman W – Klout Perks – first thoughts

I was sat having a quiet haircut yesterday, responding to a few emails on my iPhone when up popped a notification from Klout:

You have a new perk from Sony, a free Walkman etc. etc.

In this society the initial reaction is 1) I’m being scammed 2) How did my phone get hacked 3) What’s the catch. As it turns out, Sony really is giving Sony Walkman W (is it Walkmans or Walkmen???) away to “5,000 active lifestyle influencers“. I’m feeling slightly pleased with myself that some social media marketing engine thinks I have an active lifestyle.


I’m actually a huge fan of the Walkman brand too. I’ve owned at least 6 of them, from the original 1980s tape, to a huge yellow waterproof model, to a MiniDisc one, two of the iconic Walkmans: the Professional WM-D6C and the Walkman WM-EX1HG (both of which I still have).


The last Walkman I owned was one of the early MP3 models in about 2000, called the Walkman NW-MS7, and there my love of Sony Walkman died. The software interface was painful, the proprietary MemorySticks were small and expensive (and fitted just one album at a time, so you carried around a bunch) and the battery life sucked.

Soon after this, I bought a generation 1 Apple iPod and my life was changed forever. I have owned probably 15 Apple devices in the meantime from the iPod classic to the Nano, Mini, Shuffle and iPhone. Yes, I’ve been accused of being an Apple Fanboy.

And that’s just it: my current work-out music player is my Apple iPhone 5. Why? Well it’s really the only device I have. I use Apple’s iTunes Match service to stream any of 100GB of songs to my ears, using the Genius product to create a personalized playlist depending on my mood.

Can a Sony Walkman W compete with Apple?

There are some drawbacks to the iPhone 5 and the major one is that even with the new headphones, which are pretty awesome, the headphones get in the way whilst working out, especially whilst running.

Sony Walkman W

And the Sony Walkman W sounds pretty interesting in that respect: there are no wires, so it sits on your ears and gets out the way of your work-out.

That said, it looks to be limited to a meagre 2GB of music, and I hope the jukebox software got better in the last 10 years. Actually I’m kinda hoping it will just work with iTunes and my existing playlists, but something tells me that is wishful thinking. Who knows how it will function with DRM and my existing MP3 collection? Will I feel like I look stupid in orange headphones?

According to the product page it should actually do all that and more. Interesting. Some reviews suggest the earphones come out when running, but I’ll judge that myself.

The fine line between genius and insanity

And that’s just it – is this social media marketing genius, or madness? Sony is offering the 5 most influential content writers an upgrade to the new waterproof version of the Sony Walkman W. It’s a gutsy move, because if the product sucks, they have 5000 whiney bloggers complaining about it and the backlash could be severe.

It’s especially a gutsy move because they seem to be shifting 5000 of the old product line which is being replaced by a better model. Is this because it doesn’t sell and they have a ton of them in the warehouse gathering dust, or because it’s a fantastic product and they believe in it?

I’ll let you know when it arrives.

10 Tips on using the Apple iPad as your primary device

I can be clumsy when overtired. And so it happened that I broke my laptop whilst travelling to a major conference, and couldn’t get it replaced for nearly 3 weeks. As it happens I then smashed the screen on my iPad, but that’s another story, and anyhow it carried on working.

For those 3 weeks, I had only my iPad as my primary computer. Here’s how I coped – and then ended up loving the iPad more than ever before.

1. Let go of trying to curate complex content

Question is – can you? With my job I often can for some periods of time, because content curation happens in fits and spurts. When a suitable powerpoint presentation is written, you can stick with it for some time.

2. Focus on Task Management and workflow

This was my next lesson – and there are some great software enablers for this on the iPad like OmniFocus. I love this because I can categorize and prioritize tasks – entering them as I think of them, and making sure I actually get things done. This is actually a huge boon for productivity.

I’ve also bought a bunch of apps – Keynote, Numbers and Pages to cover off displaying documents properly that others send me. GoodReader, which allows you to process ZIP files. And a bunch of free apps – Lync 2010, LinkedIn, Twitter, Skype, Facebook. I use most of these on a daily basis and they make a difference to productivity.

3. Buy an Apple Keyboard and an Apple Smart Cover

I’ve tried a bunch of iPad cases like the ones from ZAGG and Logitech, but they all SUCK. They are cut-size keyboards that cause you to compromise. Instead, buy a spare Apple Keyboard and carry it when you need to create content. Conveniently, the keyboard shortcuts also work.

For example, this blog is written on vacation, using the Apple Keyboard on my lap. I can type just as fast as on a desktop computer and I leave the keyboard in the hotel safe when I don’t need it.

4. Always carry the 10W Apple Charger

But only to your hotel room and never during the day. I charge the iPad every night, but never need to charge it during the day. That’s the beauty – on a tough day I get down to 10% battery but I’ve never run out. If you get desperate, you can always steal someone’s iPhone charger!

5. If you’re clumsy, look into AppleCare+

I think it’s only available in the USA so far – in the UK they were not familiar with it – but for $100 you get full phone support, plus accidental damage cover. If you drop, drown or destroy your iPad, Apple will provide you with a replacement on the spot, for a $50 co-pay. They’ll do this twice.

6. Use iCloud Backup

I got my iPad replaced just now after the cracked screen and it was an awesome experience. You back up the existing iPad using iCloud and then reset it. When you set up the new iPad you select “use existing iCloud backup” and it puts your iPad back just the way it was – apps, settings and data – including the latest versions of apps – in about 10 minutes. You can do it at the Apple Store when they replace your iPad. So convenient.

7. Focus on being in the present

That’s the great thing about the iPad – you don’t focus on the computer, you focus on the room. Gone are the days of meetings where people peer into their laptops like there’s pictures of naked ladies on them (get the Friends reference?). Instead, focus on discussing, sharing, creating and white-boarding ideas. Create something great together and then take it home to work on it.

8. Relax

Remember that you don’t need to do everything right now and this is a benefit. So long as you capture what it is you need to work on, you can do it later. But, to do this, you have to let go a bit – and relax.

9. Get focussed on your email activity

The iPad is an AWESOME email device because it discourages long and rambling email responses. Email is at its best when it is used as a mechanism to convey a shared opinion, to pass over a task to someone who is responsible and capable of doing it. It’s at its worst when used for rants, rambles, conversations and grenades – or to avoid a face to face conversation. Make sure you use your iPad as a force for good!

10. Enjoy

Sit back and enjoy what you get in return – no big bag to carry around, no chargers and cables. The simple and elegant tablet and how it simplifies your life. On my latest flight I carried a small slip that included the iPad, its charger, a few necessary documents and a toothbrush. No heavy wheelybag, and everything I needed for a week in technology. Not even a need to open an overhead bin.

Final Thoughts

I’m wondering as I write this whether the day of the desktop computer will return. More and more, my laptop is a tool that I use at home, to create content or do complex financial analysis. Provided it is in sync – and iCloud and Microsoft Exchange ensure that everything is – I just don’t need my laptop during an average day.

And I’d conclude that whilst I still need a desktop – the iPad has become my primary device.

Apple OS X Mountain Lion: simplification, killed by Microsoft?

Those of you that know me know that I transitioned to a MacBook Air about a year ago as my main machine. I’d say that I’m a pretty heavy “professional” user: Internet, Collaboration and Content Creation as well as a smattering of other tools. The MacBook offers me a nice blend of portability and performance, with the Apple “just works” thing going on.

That machine came with OS X Lion, which was a step forward for Apple. And this weekend, its successor OS X Mountain Lion arrived. What’s it like? Much the same, and here come some of the complaints. And since by now, I am an Apple-invested household with 2 iMacs, 3 MacBooks, 2 iPads, 2 iPhones and a bunch of other stuff, I figured that if anyone could make a case for Mountain Lion, it should be me. So I invested some time on Sunday to see what gives. Here’s my conclusions:

Messages: Simplifies my life

Good technology doesn’t add an extra element to your life, it simplifies it. For example my iPhone is a pager, cellphone, camera, WalkMan and 100 other things. However I receive messages via e-mail, text message, iChat, WhatsApp, Skype, Twitter, Facebook and who knows what other mechanism.

And Messages goes some way to address this. For casual messages, it combines text messages, iChat, WhatsApp and Skype for my uses, into one app – and on all my devices. So I can continue a conversation I was having on my Mac when I pick up my iPhone and head out the office – including the context of the conversation. Neat.

I’d love it to go further by offering support for FaceBook messages, Twitter DMs and for it to sync my actual SMS between my iPhone and Mac. One place for all my private message would be awesome.

Safari: I started using it as my main browser

I’ve been using Google Chrome as my main browser for over a year now, because I found it faster and features like the combined search and browser bar made it easier to use.

That changes in Mountain Lion: first, Safari has caught up with Google Chrome’s usability – and surpassed it with the pinch and swipe feature to move between tabs.

Second, if you are running iOS6 on your iPhone and iPad (I am) it provides neat features like the ability to sync tabs between your Mac, iPad and iPhone which means you can continue to browse wherever you are. Nice!

Third, you get all the neat sharing integration, though I’ve not really used it and I’m not that sold on it. But whatever, I only use Chrome now as a backup browser.

Reminders: Great idea, feels first generation

I love the principle: I have multiple apps for reminders. Microsoft Office Reminders, Growl, and every other app that bothers me with a pop-up. I’ve now configured Reminders for OS X and it combines Calendar, Mail, Twitter, Messages and FaceTime reminders into one place. Presumably other software will integrate with it soon.

Less good is the Twitter integration: click on a Tweet and it opens Safari with the Twitter web app, despite me having the “official” Twitter app installed. And it gets far worse when you start to deal with the Microsoft Office suite.

Microsoft: Can’t get the integration right

It starts with Reminders: if you want Calendar and Mail to work then you have to run the Apple versions. Microsoft Outlook won’t integrate. This means you end up with two lots of emails downloaded and two lots of programs running. With Calendar this is tolerable, because the Apple software is better.

With Mail it’s not and I don’t think that Apple Mail is a reasonable replacement for Microsoft Outlook especially when, as we are, we are a big Microsoft Exchange shop for corporate e-mail.

So you end up with two sets of reminders and then it gets worse because you realise that Microsoft Office doesn’t integrate anything like well enough. There’s no iCloud support for uploading documents. It crashes on Mountain Lion worse than before. And of course Microsoft Update is still separate.

Promises, promises?

Also, I noticed that a bunch of the functions are “coming”. Facebook integration for example, as well as a bunch of iLife features. For those of you not running iOS6 on your iPhone or iPad, you will also be missing functions like the Tab Sharing in Safari.


Mountain Lion simplifies my life in a few key places – even in nice simple ways like combining System Updates and App Store Updates. That it pushes data to all devices in a consistent way means I spend less time worrying about the integration of my devices. E-mail, Contacts, Documents, Reminders, Notes, Photos, everything is synchronised seamlessly between devices.

What’s more, it seems that version 10.8.0 of OS X Mountain Lion is just the beginning: they are going to be offering a bunch more things in later versions that simplify life further.

But the real lack of Microsoft integration with Apple is – for my use case at least – killing the experience. Apple needs to take a slug of its $110bn reserves and spend them on Microsoft’s suite of apps.

What do you think? Has anyone dumped the Microsoft Office suite for Apple’s iWork product set? Maybe this is the solution, and what Apple is hoping people like me will do. Let me know.

Is the new iPad really worth it?

If you follow my blog then you’ll know that I’m uncertain supporter of the Apple iPad. Like many technology elements they are an important part of the job that I do but I’m not sure whether they’re really worth the money. So you won’t be surprised to know the when the new iPad came out I decided to wait and see and decide later whether or not I would get one.

There’s no denying that the new iPad is impressive: the retina display on its own makes the new iPad much more impressive than any competitive product. However after a week or so I soon realised that it would be very difficult to justify an upgrade from the old iPad to the new.

And then three weeks ago I broke my hand. It is an interesting experience to break a hand because whilst it is not especially painful and doesn’t require extensive surgery in my case and it doesn’t really appear all that bad it’s actually really a terrible inconvenience. I cannot for instance write. Orl type. Things like opening doors cooking and carrying: things that you take for granted, become very difficult.

I read about the new dictation feature on Apple’s new iPad and decided that this might be a very good reason to purchase one. I’ve seen people you Siri on the iPhone 4S and thought that Apple’s voice system seemed to be very well advanced. And such dictation system could at least in theory make my life a lot more bearable whilst I was only able to type with my left hand.

This blog is my first real attempt at using Apple dictation and I’ve got to say that I’m really in two minds about it. If you’re in a quiet environment, you speak clearly, slowly and you avoid complicated expressions don’t actually works remarkably well. The trouble is that that’s not really how the human mind works. At least not mine anyhow.

And what’s more you have to tap the dictate button to start and then tap the dictate button again to finish. And when you do you have to have a Wi-Fi connection available otherwise it doesn’t work at all. And sometimes it just refuses to understand what you have to say. To add to all this you feel like a bit of a wally sat there clearly enunciating at an iPad.

In the ends to write this blog on the way that I hadn’t also required in reasonable degree of editing. For instance the dictate feature doesn’t really understand grammar and therefore won’t interject things like commas and full stops where you might imagine they would need to be. You might think that I’m being unfair that what apple is done is way beyond the quality of dictation of what others have managed.

And to some degree this is true because what’s really clever about dictate is that it works in any app where the Apple keyboard is required. It’s very useful when creating a note for the shopping or doing a search or any other time when using a keyboard is just a Little inconvenient.

But has it served as a replacement to being able for me to type? Have I been able to create content at a time when otherwise I would not have been able to do anything? Has it made the new iPad really worthwhile purchase? I’m really not so sure although the more I speak two it, the better the quality of dictation becomes.

However, in the end, I believe that the power of Apple’s dictation system really comes into it so when it’s offered an Apple TV or some such format. Because that is a time when using a keyboard or complicated remote system isn’t really very inconvenient and talking into a small remote or small iPod or something similar would really improve the quality of viewing experience.

Have you extensively used Apples iPod would you recommend a purchase? Let me know.

Has Apple reached the end of the line?

So I’m sat on a London bus going to buy a birthday cake, and I put, as I usually do, a set of boundary conditions around penning a blog. In this case, on my iPad, two short bus journeys totalling about 20 minutes.

And I’m pondering why, whilst I love my iPad 2, I very rarely use it. It is an item of beauty, of fashion and style. It is better than the original iPad by a million miles. The battery life is amazing and it integrates with all my other Apple stuff. It is always ready to use, always on the Internet with cellular Internet or Wi-Fi and never goes wrong.

So why then does it rarely get any use? When I go on holiday it is my device of choice – mostly because it is hard to work on it and temptation is kept at bay. At conferences where there is a lot of walking I sometimes use it. But the rest of the time it stays at home. And quietly downloads my email.

And then I think of Apple as a whole, I start to wonder when it last innovated. The iPod, in 2001. The iPhone in 2007. The iPad in 2009 and the unibody MacBook in 2008. Each of those were very interesting innovations. Like all good innovations, the technology wasn’t quite there to make version one a success.

What Apple has done amazingly well over the last 4 years is to execute on its past innovation. I have no doubt that their product line right now is the best, most polished it has ever been. Just like Nokia’s was in 2001. And that, you see, is the problem.

Because if Apple thinks that the new Apple TV, iPad 2 or iPhone 4S are innovations, they are dead in the water in 5 years time. The closest thing Apple have to innovation in the last 2 years is Siri, but their entire smartphone design is in such silos that Siri cannot integrate to the level it would need to, to innovate.

I don’t think that Apple is necessarily dead in the water yet, because there is time to be innovative once more – and remember that one amazing product every 5 years, with excellent execution in the middle, is still enough. The death of the innovator himself, Steve Jobs, makes that much harder for them.

Regardless of this, Apple will continue to grow because of their fantastic execution, for years to come. But unless we see a change, I predict that we will look back in 2020 as 2011 being the beginning of the end.